I’m sitting at the airport again, this time preparing to board a plane from Christchurch to Auckland.
The trip represents a few things for me.
First, it’s my final departure from the South Island here in New Zealand. Up until this point, I’ve spent the vast majority of my time in the bottom part of the country, and the North Island is still relatively new and unexplored territory on my mental map.
Second, since Christchurch has been my home base in NZ, it feels like I’m really and truly leaving home again, a feeling that I’ve had several times since I started Exile Lifestyle, and one that is always a little surreal.
Third, it represents a series of new challenges I haven’t yet encountered, which is good in that I’m learning and struggling and getting the most out of my experience, but bad in that it really kind of sucks and makes leaving a whole lot more difficult.
The Bus Ride
I took a bus ride yesterday, which is something I don’t often do since I’ve always lived in the City Center of Christchurch, where everything is within easy waking distance.
But I found myself on this bus, and it was like I had hopped on a Disneyland ride entitled ‘Colin Wright, This Is Your Chch Life!’ (Chch is the abbreviation many Kiwis use for Christchurch).
As I sat there, leaning back in my seat and gazing out the slightly-blurry windows, we passed landmark after landmark from my short history in the city.
I’d be staring blankly, unfocusing my eyes and quietly enjoying the relative silence of the bus interior, and them BAM! My eyes auto-focus in on the hostel I stayed at when I first arrived in town, jarring my attention back to the fact that this is my last day here.
As soon as I’m able to push down the flood of memories and associations, WHACK! Slapped in the face by a blurry view of the first intersection that I learned and used as a point of reference to find my way around the city.
KAPOW! There’s the real estate office in the middle of nowhere that I had to hike to several times to get my apartment rental settled.
THUNK! There’s the lookout point that my good friend Melissa showed me my first week in town.
WHUMP! There’s the empty pizza restaurant my buddy Nathan was thinking about renting for the first location of the new fish and chips chain he’s setting up.
By the end of the bus ride I was more than a little punch-drunk, head full of reminiscent fluff and eyes still a little blurry, though no longer from the bus windows.
Christchurch is an amazing place full of amazing things. It’s a smallish city by international standards, but the culture is fantastic, the beer and wine is great, and the food is good.
It’s also the first place that I’ve been out on a handful of dates with someone who I’ve really felt a ‘more than friends’ connection to.
I kept thinking, under other circumstances…but in these kinds of situations you can’t really think about that, because I have my priorities, and she has hers, and we met in the middle and had a good time. Trying to make it anything more or less than it was would do the whole situation, and the time we did have together, an injustice.
I’m parting ways with her for now, but I’m sure I’ll see her again somewhere in the world, someday, when we’re both a bit different and have even more to share with and learn from one another.
Similarly, I’m leaving Christchurch for now, but I’ll be back.
But even if I cannot for some reason, I’ve seriously enjoyed the experience, taken something away from it and become a better person for it.
And at the end of the day, that’s what this trip and life is all about.
Update: December 22, 2016
That day was tough, and it doesn’t get any easier, leaving your home. Even if it was only your home for four months, there are still connections and routines and familiar places that you’re leaving in the rearview, and it’s painful.
But focusing on what’s next helps. And recognizing that you decide if and when you return, and what the circumstances of that visit will be. It helps to know that today, in this world we live in, because of the tools we have at hand, there are very seldom any concrete “goodbyes,” but mostly “see you laters.”